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Scotland Act 2016

Volume 617: debated on Wednesday 23 November 2016

2. What progress has been made on the transfer of powers to the Scottish Government under the provisions of the Scotland Act 2016. (907317)

We have made significant progress in transferring powers in the Scotland Act 2016 to the Scottish Parliament. A large number of provisions of the Act are already in force and we are continuing to work with the Scottish Government on the smooth transition of remaining powers.

The Scottish National party Government have failed to introduce a single piece of legislation in the past six months; the First Minister prefers grandstanding across Europe to block Brexit. Is it not time she used the powers devolved to her under the Act to start governing, rather than engaging in pointless photo opportunities?

I can update my hon. Friend. The Scottish Government have now brought forward one piece of legislation since the Scottish parliamentary elections in May. He may be interested to know that this Government currently have 19 pieces of proposed legislation before this Parliament. Of course I agree with him, and I think the majority of people in Scotland want the First Minister and the Scottish Government to get on with their day job of running Scotland and seeing to the devolved responsibilities, rather than constantly talking about independence.

The Scottish Government have announced that the new powers over benefits will be used to end the misery being meted out to disabled Scots by the UK Government. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to reduce the need for assessments for personal independence payments and disability living allowance, in particular for those with long-term illness. Will the Secretary of State take the opportunity to welcome that and urge his UK Cabinet colleagues to follow suit?

What I will welcome when I see it is some detail behind those fine words. We have heard lots and lots of fine words on welfare, but to date we have absolutely no detail as to what the Scottish Government plan to do.

I suppose we should view it as progress that the Secretary of State believes they are fine words, and perhaps he will follow the Scottish Government’s initiative, but it is fair to say that the majority of welfare and economic powers are not being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has no plans to devolve powers to deal with Scottish legal partnerships, and the risks they pose in the fight against global money-laundering and organised crime? I have raised this matter with the Prime Minister and spoken to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he now tell the House what he and the UK Government will actually do about it?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the settlement in the Scotland Act 2016 was the outcome of the Smith Commission. The Scottish legal partnerships issue was not a part of that arrangement and will not be devolved, but I take it extremely seriously. I commend him for the way in which he has highlighted it in this House and elsewhere, and I commend The Herald for the way in which it has highlighted the issue. Colleagues in the UK Government are looking at how we can best take the situation forward to end the abuses, which are evident.

I was concerned to read in The Sunday Times that the Scottish Government are delaying the introduction of the devolved welfare powers. Can my right hon. Friend confirm whether that is the case?

All Members have access to the minutes of the last meeting of the joint welfare group between myself and Scottish Government Ministers. Those minutes confirm that the introduction of the welfare powers in Scotland is indeed being delayed, potentially until 2020.

Will the Secretary of State consider the transfer of power on visas to the Scottish Government? In the Outer Hebrides, fishing boats are currently tied up because the UK Government will not enable non-EEA fishermen to come in and work on them. People are welcome and are required, but they are blocked from economic activity by the UK Government. This threatens jobs and industries in the Outer Hebrides. Will he act and do something about it, or will he do nothing as usual?

I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, which others have also expressed. There are specific rules on who can work on fishing boats, but immigration remains a reserved issue and the responsibility of the Home Office.

It is always a pleasure to follow Hurricane Angus. Mr Speaker, may I thank you for your generous indulgence in allowing me to appear at the Dispatch Box in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson), who is simply unable to be with us today? I have been immersing myself in Scottish legislation—and Irn-Bru—over the past week.

Many of us on the Labour Benches would give our eye teeth to have the powers contained in the Scotland Act 2016. Does the Secretary of State feel that the apparent reluctance of the Scottish Government to take more advantage of them indicates a surfeit of modesty, or, possibly, a lack of ambition?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box at Scottish questions on behalf of the Labour party. The one question I have is, “Who next?” because we have had a selection of individuals. I say to the hon. Gentleman that these are very significant powers over tax and welfare. The autumn statement in this House is a very important event, but on 15 December we will see the Scottish Budget. For the first time, the Scottish Government will be able to raise income tax at their will in the Scottish Budget. That is a very significant moment in terms of taking responsibility and accountability.